Sharp and enjoyable new portraits of the English kings and queens.
Hunchbacked Richard III, the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I, the grieving widow Victoria, and the romantic who gave up his throne for love, Edward VIII – often the colourful kings and queens of England seem like mere caricature, while less familiar rulers like William IV or Henry VI have faded into the shadows of history. Carolly Erickson’s sensitive and revealing portrayals bring new life to the big names, and light up some of our most neglected but intriguing royals. Here is the puny Charles I, nervous, tense and socially awkward, the frail slight Richard II, melancholic and sad, the homosexual James I with his handsome favourites, and the stuttering William II. Every monarch from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II is covered.Award winning historian Erickson tells the human stories with her characteristic blend of authenticity, engaging style and psychological insight.
For over 150 years, from 1314 to 1485, England fought an almost continuous war with its neighbours: the Campaign of the North when the armies of Robert the Bruce were vanquished, the long, one-hundred-and-sixteen-year conflict with France, finally imploding into bloody civil strife in the Wars of the Roses.
Too often attention has been focused on the bravery of knights and archers during these conflicts, yet face to face confrontations were few. Peter Reid proposes that England’s ability to discipline, provision and finance such a long campaign was at the heart of its success. England’s strength derived from an entire nation being put on a total war footing. Campaigns were won, not just on the battlefield, but through the careful marshalling of troops and supplies.
Interweaving his argument with a dramatic recreation of the main events of the campaigns on land and at sea, Peter Reid presents a new perspective on this turning point in English history. A Brief History of Medieval Warfare is both gripping and powerfully persuasive.
In 1710 an obscure Devon ironmonger Thomas Newcomen invented a machine with a pump driven by coal, used to extract water from mines. Over the next two hundred years the steam engine would be at the heart of the industrial revolution that changed the fortunes of nations.
Passionately written and insightful, A Brief History of the Age of Steam reveals not just the lives of the great
inventors such as Watts, Stephenson and Brunel, but also tells a narrative that reaches from the US to the expansion of China, India and South America. Crump shows how the steam engine changed the world.
A concise history of the world’s greatest stone circle, Stonehenge, by Britain’s leading expert.
Every aspect of Stonehenge is re-considered in Aubrey Burl’s new analysis. He explains for the first time how the outlying Heel Stone long predates Stonehenge itself, serving as a trackway marker in the prehistoric Harroway. He uncovers new evidence that the Welsh bluestones were brought to Stonehenge by glaciation rather than by man. And he reveals just how far the design of Stonehenge was influenced by Breton styles and by Breton cults of the dead.
Meticulously research sets the record straight on the matter of Stonehenge’s astronomical alignments. Although the existence of a sightline to the midsummer sunrise is well known, the alignment and the viewing-position are different from popular belief. And the existence of an earlier alignment to the moon and a later one to the midwinter sunset has been largely unrealised.
One puzzle remains. The site of Stonehenge lies at the heart of a vast six-mile wide graveyard, but before it was built there appears to have been a mysterious gap two miles across on that site. Burl argues that earlier totem-pole style constructions served a ceremonial purpose for the living — to celebrate success in the hunt.
A Brief History of Secret Societies examines the significant hidden power wielded by clandestine organisations from ancient times right up to the present day. Throughout history, humankind’s search for knowledge has revealed strange truths. Barrett explores the powerful attraction of esoteric religious beliefs and reveals how such societies have gained a powerful hold on the popular imagination. He presents an unbiased and balanced history of humanity’s desire to uncover secret knowledge, and of the societies that seek to preserve such knowledge.
From the Battle of Hastings to the Battle of Bosworth Field, Nicholas Vincent tells the story of how Britain was born.
When William, Duke of Normandy, killed King Harold and seized the throne of England, England’s language, culture, politics and law were transformed. Over the next four hundred years, under royal dynasties that looked principally to France for inspiration and ideas, an English identity was born, based in part on the struggle for control over the other parts of the British Isles (Scotland, Wales and Ireland), in part on rivalry with the kings of France. From these struggles emerged English law and an English Parliament, the English language, English humour and England’s first overseas empires.
In this thrilling and accessible account, Nicholas Vincent not only tells the story of the rise and fall of dynasties, but investigates the lives and obsessions of a host of lesser men and women, from archbishops to peasants, and from soldiers to scholars, upon whose enterprise the social and intellectual foundations of Englishness now rest.
This the first book in the four-volume Brief History of Britain which brings together some of the leading historians to tell our nation’s story from the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the present day.
Combining the latest research with accessible and entertaining story-telling, it is the ideal introduction for students and general readers.
The history of the Normans began a long time before 1066. Originating from the ‘Norsemen’ they were one of the most successful warrior tribes of the Dark Ages that came to dominate Europe from the Baltic Sea to the island of Sicily and the borders of Eastern Europe. Beginning as Viking raiders in the eighth century, the Normans not only changed the landscape of Europe but were changed by their new conquests.
As a military force they became unstoppable. As Conquerors, they established their own kingdom in Normandy from where they set out on a number of devastating campaigns, where they also introduced innovations in politics, architecture and culture. In A Brief History of the Normans leading French historian, Francois Neveux, gives an accessible and authoritative introduction.
The history of the Freemasons has often been shrouded in mystery and suspicion.
Since 1717, with the establishment of the Grand Lodge in London, the Freemasons have been a power within the nation, withstanding public disapproval and attacks, from the Catholic Church among others.
Throughout the last three hundred years, the Freemasons have been influential in some of the most important turning points in world history.
Jasper Ridley explores the role of the society in both the American and French Revolutions and whether Mozart’s The Magic Flute was an exposé of secret rituals. He reveals that Pushkin, Winston Churchill, Booker T. Washington, Clark Gable, Walter Scott, members of the royal family and at least sixteen US Presidents have all been Freemasons.
‘Absorbing and sometimes shocking’ – Literary Review
‘A masterful historical study’ – The Good Book Guide
Behind the wholesome image of the world’s most popular drink lies a strangely murky and often violent past. From its first discovery to the present day, this is an extraordinary story of a great world obsession.
When tea began to be imported into the West from China in the seventeenth century, its high price and heavy taxes made it an immediate target for smuggling and dispute at every level, culminating in international incidents like the notorious Boston Tea Party.
In China itself the British financed their tea dealings by the ruthless imposition of the opium trade. Intrepid British tea planters soon began flocking to India, Ceylon and Africa, setting up huge plantations; often workers were bought and sold like slaves.
Roy Moxham’s account of this extraordinary history begins with his own sojourn in Africa, managing 500 acres of tea and a thousand-strong workforce. His experiences inform the book and led him to investigate the early history of tea – and the results of his researches reflect little credit on the British Empire, while often revealing a fascinating world story.
A Brief History of Mankind is the thrilling introduction to the big ideas in history combining the latest research in history and archaeology to look for answers to some of the questions we ask ourselves: Where do we come from? Why has the human race been so successful? What are the origins of our religions?
In a sweeping, panoramic narrative Cyril Aydon tells the story of our species from origins in Africa, the development of technology, the rise of nations and empires, and the evolution of culture from cave painting to the internet. Packed with fascinating facts and insights, the book also looks to the future and asks is the crisis of climate change one challenge too far for Homo Sapiens?
From the beginning of the eighteenth century to the high water mark of the Victorian era, the world was transformed by a technological revolution the like of which had never been seen before. Inventors, businessmen, scientists, explorers all had their part to play in the story of the Industrial Revolution and in this Brief History Thomas Crump brings their story to life, and shows why it is a chapter in English history that can not be ignored.
Previous praise for Thomas Crump’s A Brief History of Science:
‘A serious and fully furnished history of science, from which anyone interested in the development of ideas . . . will greatly profit.’ A. C. Grayling, Financial Times
‘Provides an enduring sense of the extraordinary ingenuity that defines our relationship with nature.’ Guardian
‘An excellent account . . Crump writes with authority.’ TLS
‘A gem. Brief, authoritative and fair in its judgements – an intensely readable introduction to this most complex and fascinating man’ – Graham Farmelo, award-winning author of The Strangest Man
A new and dynamic reappraisal of Winston Churchill, and his finest hour in 1940-1.
Who was Winston Churchill? Even fifity years after his death he is one of the most iconic figures in British history: as a young man he was a maverick journalist, his many positions in politics before 1940 marked him out as a courageous but foolhardy man.
Yet it is Churchill’s record in war, which has recently been questioned, that confirms his genius as a military commander and national leader - someone who understood the dangers of Nazi Germany before 1939; someone uniquely capable to lead the empire through the turmoil of the Second World War. Catherwood argues that it was Churchill’s stand in 1940-41 that saved Britain and only he was able to bring together the allies that eventually defeated Hitler in 1945.
Catherwood has produced a challenging yet accessible reassessment of the life and career of Winston Churchill, lion of British history and flawed hero.